13th-17th century Dentons


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Anketin de Denton – GGF23b

Anketin proves to be a viable alternative 23rd GGF in my lineage and is certainly the progenitor from whom our branch in the world of Dentons is descended.

Other than Aelfward he was the first recorded person who used the name Denton. He took it from his base – that being those two small places in Cumberland. Regrettably I cannot get back beyond Anketin. Some sources name him as Asketil or Asketin but finding nothing further he is currently our source.

Robert de Denton / Anketin – GGF22

The two independent branches (Sims/Bueth and Anketin) were unified when Anketin’s son, Robert de Denton, became the second husband of Sigreda Bueth.

This move also secured the family’s position in the locale. As we saw above Sigreda had previously married Eustace de Vaux, the Lord of Hayton in Gilsland (the descendant of Hugh and Robert de Vaux).

Robert and Sigreda had four sons – Robert, John, David and Simon, and two daughters – Anketin and Agnes. Robert de Denton clearly had ambition because in a bold double dynastic marriage he had his son John de Denton (my GGF21 – below) marry the Heiress de Vaux (Eustace and Sigreda’s daughter) and another son Robert de Denton marry Eda’s daughter the Heiress of Adcock of Bewcastle. Hence the reason I believe the lineage goes back to Sims as well as Anketin.

Robert de Denton – GU22

This Robert married Adcock’s heiress and they produced a son Sir Robert de Denton of Lanerton in 1293. This Sir Robert (the third), is therefore a cousin of mine. It proved possible to find out a little of his career. The first record shows he agreed to take £10’s worth of land at Denton in Gilsland as the recompense for one-sixth of his knight’s fee.

Robert was well-connected enough to be granted approval from King Edward III to found a hospital for ‘curing mad people’, which right after some deliberation he bestowed on St Katherine’s-by-the-Tower Hospital in London. This is interesting – a knight plying his trade on the Scottish borders having the ability to gain agreement from the king and then applying that benefice in London some 320 miles away. There was evidently more joined-up thinking than we credit in the 14thcentury.

But other than this early example of the Denton’s peripatetic penchant I could find nothing else about him – no wife and no issue.

John de Denton ( – 1282) – GGF21

Anketin’s other son John is my direct ancestor. The National Archives (Ref: ZSW/2/2) shows that John  married Agnes, the daughter of Ralph de Halhuton and was granted a marriage settlement of ‘30 acres of land with toft and croft which Stacius the clerk had from me in the land of Halhuton and half an acre outside the said croft on which to build granges and other buildings; and ten acres of land from his demesne in the said township’. In the Northumberland Archives they are actually referenced as Rannlphi de Halhuton and Johanni de Denton. Halhuton appears to be in Staffordshire. The settlement also agreed that ‘John and his heirs the liberty of grinding his corn and that of his men which grows on the said land at my mill free of the multure which he ought to give.’

John awarded some land to the local Benedictine Wetheral Priory in 1214. Of course Wetheral was to be dissolved with other monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538. Today all that remains is a 15thcentury fortified gatehouse which English Heritage suggests is ‘the finest medieval gatehouse in Cumbria’. This is not really saying much as they give no indication as to how many others exist in the county.

Wetheral Priory Gatehouse

John was also a signatory to a contract in 1225. His marriage to the Vaux heiress (never named!) delivered him three sons – Richard, John and Thomas. Thomas was my GGF20 but the two other sons are also worthy of note.

Descendants of John de Denton (GGF21) would became the founders of two distinct branches of the Denton family. His eldest son was Sir Richard de Denton my GU21. Another GU21 and his second son was John de Denton, whose son in turn became Sir John de Denton my IC21 (first cousin twenty-one times removed). These brothers both became prominent knights, building their reputation participating in the regular cross-border battles and skirmishes.

In 1286 Alexander III, King of Scotland, died and the crown passed to his three-year-old granddaughter Margaret. In her minority she was to be supervised by the ‘Guardians of Scotland’. They proposed her marriage to the five-year-old heir apparent to the English throne, though the nations would remain independent. Margaret died on her way from Orkney to Scotland and the guardians had to think again. They asked the English king Edward I to conclude a way forward.

The outcome was Scotland’s ‘Great Cause’ as thirteen claimants vied for the crown. A key contender was John Balliol, Lord of Galloway, who had forged an alliance with the Bishop of Durham and was selected by Edward I to succeed. The other was Robert the Bruce (or Brus), the 5th Lord of Annandale. The early de Denton knights (Richard and John) earned status and land fighting for the Balliols and the English king.

They were awarded armorial bearings, a coat of arms. Yes of course we had to have one. In fact as you will see we actually have quite a few from which to choose.

Denton coat of arms

The description of this original coat of arms (above) was that it should bear argent, two bars gules, in chief three cinquefoils sable. This heraldic-speak means the background should be argent or silver, though optionally white, the two horizontal bars are gule from the French meaning throat and thus red, with three cinquefoils, or five-leaved flowers, in sable or black.

Heraldry proves useful here as it provides us with a list of knights during Edward I’s reign (1272-1307) and two distinct Denton coat of arms, sufficiently similar to show that two Denton knights, Sir Richard and Sir John, were related:

The left-hand coat or arms is the senior version and has the original three cinquefoils, its eagle crest perhaps a link to the Roman usage of eagles in their standards. The other has three martlets plus one as a crest and rotates the colours argent and gule

Sir Richard de Denton (1282-1363) – GU21

Sir Richard was from the senior part of this ancient family that initially lived in Gilsland at Denton Hall in Nether Denton. Denton Hall no longer exists, but the church still stands:

The original Denton Hall was described as a fortified manor house with a peel or pele tower. These towers were popular in the borders area as they performed multiple functions. They could act as small fortified keeps to protect from attackers. Their very height made them useful watchtowers and if flat-topped they could be used for signal fires to alert others to Scottish insurgencies.

A Cumberland pele tower

Today the site is a farm with outbuildings, seemingly with a horsey theme. The tower is still apparent internally from its two-metre thick walls but its height has been reduced and the top gabled over. There are still signs of a deep moat to the south and east of the site.

Today’s Denton Hall in Cumbria

Denton Hall still provides the name for a local railway level crossing.

Denton Hall level crossing

Ainstable Manor to the SE of Carlisle had originally been held by Adam Skirelock who went off crusading to the Holy Land in 1271 and did not return. It was then acquired by Guido de Boyvills in 1276 on his marriage to the heiress. It was held by this family until John de Boyvill died in 1319. His widow Agnes married Sir Richard de Denton yet the manor passed to John’s brother Edmund de Boyvill. Andrew de Harclay (aka de Hartcia or de Hecla) the then Earl of Carlisle subsequently acquired Ainstable in 1322.

On 10 March 1322 Richard was living at Denton Hall and from there assisted in the arrest of Andrew de Harclay. Harclay was accused of treacherous dealings with Robert the Bruce. He had become frustrated by Edward II’s passivity and unilaterally initiated peace talks with the Bruce and signed a treaty. He was tried, executed and hanged, drawn and quartered the following year. His parts were put on display around the county and only brought together for his burial five years later.

On 5 April 1323 Richard was commissioned to array (gather and provision) 2,000 foot soldiers from Cumberland and Westmorland. They were to be armed with haketons (a stuffed jacket worn under mail or plated with mail), basnets (light steel helmets) and palettis (some sort of staff or pike?). Richard had to assemble these men and get them to Newcastle to assist in the king’s latest assault against the Scots. They had to arrive by the Nativity of St John the Baptist (24 June).

On 23 Dec 1324 he was again tasked to array 120 hobelers (mounted infantry) from Cumberland and Westmorland and have these assembled in Portsmouth before mid-Lent. This was to face a threatened, or at least suspected, French invasion.

On 16 February 1330 he was appointed to enforce the treaty with Scotland in Cumberland and on 3 November 1331 he was given the power to receive Scotsmen who desired to cease hostilities.

On 2 June 1335 Edward II rewarded Sir Richard in fee simple with all the lands in Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire that had been acquired by Andrew de Harclay. He also obtained the land that Richard’s wife Agnes held in dower from her first husband John de Boyvill and the lands held by Joan, widow of William de Boyvill. This included the manors of Ainstable and Thursby; Ainstable became his family seat.

The following year Sir Richard was appointed Sheriff of Cumberland.

In 1337 Sir Richard was going overseas accompanying the 1st Earl of Northampton, William de Bohun. He appointed attorneys to act on his behalf during his absence in case he did not make it back. I could not establish what Richard did on this campaigns but the Earl of Northampton travelled to Flanders at this time and became involved in the Battle of Sluys (aka Battle of l’Ecluse) on 24 June 1340. This was one of the opening salvos of the Hundred Years War, a naval encounter that virtually wiped out King Philip VI of France’s fleet. Impossible not to try to imagine that Sir Richard de Denton was therefore involved too – but there is no documented evidence.

Battle of Sluys from Jean Froissart’s Chronicles, 14thcentury

On 18 November 1341 Richard inquired into a complaint made by the Bohun, Earl of Northampton. He claimed that his men (from Annandale) crossed the Solway Firth to reach Carlisle to sell their goods at the fairs and markets. His accusation was that the deputy-keeper of the Solway Firth was hindering and unduly taxing them.

In 1346 Richard clashed with Adam de Copley and Margaret his wife concerning the manor of Denton in Gilsland – remember de Copley as we will come back to him later.

On 6 Jul 1350 Richard was appointed Constable of Carlisle and Sheriff of Cumberland.

For all his good services to the king’s grandfather, father and to the king himself, in 1351 Sir Richard was granted exemption for life from serving at assizes and juries, or being appointed to offices against his will. By then he had passed the age of three-score-years-and-ten, yet in 1352 Bohun, Earl of Northampton and now Constable of England, appointed Sir Richard de Denton and others to travel to and receive control of Lochmaben Castle and the Vale of Annan (Annandale).

Lochmaban castle – to the west of Lockerbie

In 1356 Agnes de Denton, Richard’s wife, made her will at Uluesby (today Ousby near Penrith). She bequeathed to the church of Denton her second-best animal (rather like Shakespeare leaving his second-best bed to Anne Hathaway), gave ten shillings to the nuns of Armathwaiteten and two shillings to Thomas del Hall (more about him later). The residue was left to her husband whom she appointed an executor, together with John his brother and William de Denton, rector of the church of Uluesby. The will was proved at Rose Castle (the Bishop of Carlisle’s residence) on 2 Dec 1356.

In 1362 upon the death of the Duke of Hereford, King Edward III put the stewardship of Lochmaban Castle and of Annandale (the Bruce’s hereditary lands) under the custody of John de Denton of Cardew until Hereford’s heir came of age.

Margaret de Denton (1377-1426) – 2C20

This main Denton line would peter out when a second Sir Richard de Denton left only a daughter, Margaret de Denton. Margaret married Sir Richard Copley of Batley (from Yorkshire) who by that marriage acquired Denton Hall and Nether Denton which remained with the de Copleys for three generations – see Isabel de Copley below.

Sir John de Denton – IC21

The junior or cadet branch of the Denton family fortunes were originated by Sir John de Denton, son of John (GU21).

Sir John was charged by the Justiciar of Galloway to support him by mounting a foray into Scotland on 9 January 1303. On 20 February 1306 he and three others were charged to levy a combat force of 140 men from Eskdale and Gilsland and bring them to Carlisle from where they would pursue Robert Bruce.

Originally John lived at Nether Denton, but Sir Richard de Denton was awarded Ainstable Manor by King Edward II and he subsequently passed this on to John. In 1343 John founded and built a new home for the family in Thursby and which he named Cardew Hall.

After his brother Richard’s death (1362-3) John inherited the custody of Lochmaben Castle and the lordship of Annandale. In 1368 (and again in 1381) he was appointed knight of the shire and also served as Sheriff of Cumberland in both 1371 and 1374.

Besides his cataloguing of lands and gentry John Denton the historian described an incident involving Sir John when Robert the Bruce undermined and burned the castle he was defending: when Baliol was banished Scotland, he (Sir John) Kept Still ye Principle house, till it was fired under him beaten and undermined ready to fall; whereupon his heirs give now in Remembrance thereof for a Chrest. John’s courage earned him the right to add a crest the Denton coat of arms which shows a golden demi-lion with a silver sword in its paw. This is apparently a Scottish crest.

It was described by the historian as a Castle flaming; wth a Lyon Rampant Issuant, wth a Sword in ye Dexter Paw brandished (dexter meaning right):

Denton Crest. Illustration by William Gilpin in his 1687 manuscript, citing John Denton

Below is a somewhat detuned version of the crest. I think I prefer the sketched approach:

Denton coat of arms with crest awarded for the Annandale castle siege.
Note it has martlets but has not switched the coloured bars

At Ainstable Church there was a memorial to Sir John which also showed the martlet version of the coat of arms and an illustration of his helmet that resembled the variant crest on the Denton coat of arms (that is pre-Annandale crest). This memorial had been located in the middle of the church but was moved to the west of the graveyard. The inscription on this rubbing is damaged and says Hic facet Johannes de D [e] ntoun, dominus de . . . nstapli, presumably meaning This facet of John Denton then the master of Ainstable. However, at death he was also the lord of the forest of Garnerie and Kirkpatrick and Agingrey (Irongray) in Scotland which he was awarded by Edward Baliol, King of Scots.

Sir John de Denton memorial at Ainstable – no longer extant

Let’s take a quick tour of some of John’s direct descendants.

William de Denton of Cardew ( – 1404) – 2C20

In Oct 1393 John signed an agreement in French with Richard de Coupland, Richard de Skelton and John’s son William de Denton (2C20). Part of this agreed that William would take Katherine de Coupland as his wife within fifteen days.

William and Katherine did marry and he became known as William de Denton of Cardew.

St. Michael & All Angels Church, Ainstable

Sandstone effigies of William and Katherine were originally placed in St Cuthbert’s Church in Carlisle (where William is buried) but later these were moved to either side of the altar at St. Michael & All Angels Church, Ainstable.

These effigies were for a while misidentified as being of Katherine and her second husband John Aglionby. An inscription reads Orate pro Anima Katarine Denton quis orbit AD 1428 – ‘Pray for the soul of Katherine Denton who died AD 1428’.

Sandstone effigy of William de Denton in Ainstable – often mistaken for John Aglionby. I could only source a poor image of Katherine’s effigy.
They look more Karnak than Cumbria.

William de Denton (the younger) (?-?) – 3C19

William and Katherine’s son was William de Denton (the younger) who served as a Mayor of Carlisle, He married Elizabeth (no maiden name established) and their son was John de Denton of Cardew (1420-1493), my fourth cousin eighteen times removed.

This John of Cardew appeared in the lists of gentry of Cumberland in 1433. In 1461 he was the Commissioner of Array, charged with gathering up the king’s subjects in Cumberland against Henry VI. This was presumably a Yorkist initiative during the Wars of the Roses. Richard of York had imprisoned Henry VI following the battle of Northampton in July 1460. Henry was rescued that December and deposed in March 1461.

Henry or (William Henry) Denton of Cardew (?-1532) – 5C17

John of Cardew married Margaret Fenwick and their son Henry (or William Henry) married a daughter of a Mr Crackenthorpe and himself had two sons, both sixth cousins sixteen times removed. Henry became Sheriff of Cumberland in 1490 and in 1511 was appointed Commissioner for Array. As a result in 1512 he was commissioned by Henry VIII to muster as many men and arms as possible. This is assumed to be the call to arms that led to the battle of Flodden in 1513, a decisive English victory fought against the Scots in Northumberland.

William Denton of Cardew ( – 1537)

William served as a bailiff to the city of Carlisle in 1516 and 1523. In 1528 he was caught up in a riot. His son John de Denton was father to Henry de Denton of Cardew and his first son was John Denton the historian (see below).

William was empanelled on an inquisition concerning the escape of a Scottish prisoner Richie Graham of Esk. In the mid-16thcentury the Grahams were a troublesome Scottish clan consisting of some five hundred warriors. Richard Graham of Esk was the eldest son of Lang Will the clan chieftain. In 1528 William Lord Dacre, as the English Warden of the Western March, mounted a secret raid to Eskdale to attack another clan, the Armstrongs. It proved to be a trap and Dacre’s men were badly mauled and the Armstrongs slipped behind them and burned the village of Netherby in England and a mill owned by Dacre.

Lord Dacre believed the Armstrongs had been tipped off by Richard Graham, Richard being married to an Armstrong. Richard Graham was taken into custody on 23 March 1528. He was charged with treason and awaited execution in Carlisle Castle’s high tower with fetters on his feet. By order of the under-sheriff, Sir William Musgrave, on Sundays Richard was unshackled to walk up and down the castle. He was permitted to eat in the dining hall and to attend a church service. Richard leapt out through a privy postern which stood open to the fields where he was met by a man who supplied him a horse upon which galloped away to Scotland. Richard subsequently succeeded in clearing himself of the charge of treason by proving that it was a member of the Storey family of Netherby who had informed the Armstrongs.

Nicholas Denton of Cardew (1500 – ?) – 6C16

Nicholas also served as a Bailiff of the city of Carlisle but intriguingly in 1533 he was appointed as the clerk of the watch of Berwick-upon-Tweed some eighty-six miles away in Northumberland. He served in that post until the end of Henry VIII’s reign in 1547. He subsequently moved to the south of England.

William Denton (1523-1565) –7C15

Nicholas’s son William had served with him as joint-clerk of the watch at Berwick but when on moving south he worked as steward to the Browne family in Midhurst Sussex. He travelled widely with Sir Anthony Browne of Cowdray and his son. In 1549 he acquired property in Southwark, then in Surrey. He and the Brownes’ staunch Catholicism proved a significant asset during the five years of Mary I’s reign (1553-1558). Both Browne and William managed to maintain their status under Elizabeth I as well.

William served eight terms as MP for Midhurst from 1553. He also served as commissioner for Kent sewers in 1564. In 1557 he bought the manor at Stedham in Sussex (adjacent to Midhurst) for £760 and just before his death in 1564 he purchased the rectory of Tonbridge, Kent.

In 1564 he was surveyor to Browne’s son Anthony who was by then Viscount Montagu. William’s travels are perhaps best highlighted by items left in his will – a damask tablecloth bearing the Emperor’s arms, with matching towel, cupboard cloth and a dozen napkins, maps, cards and pictures.

Nicholas’s other son Sir Anthony Denton matriculated from Brasenose College Oxford in 1578 at eighteen years of age. He joined the Middle Temple in 1581. Anthony left one daughter so this line died out.


Isabel de Denton – 3C19

As we saw earlier the main branch of the Dentons had died out when its last member, Margaret Denton, married Sir Richard Copley. They had a daughter Isabel who ensured that this was not quite the end of things for the Dentons.

Thomas de Denton (de Hall) of Carlisle (1364-1391) – father-in-law of 3C19

He acquired Denton Hall and took on the name Denton for himself. Some sources suggest he claimed there was a blood relationship but this is not confirmed.

Adam de Denton (de Hall) (1390-?) – husband of 3C19

Thomas’s son Adam de Denton (aka del Hall) married Isabel de Copley. As part of this union Thomas negotiated the formal right to use the name Denton and to bear the Denton coat of arms. This effectively re-unified the manor, the house and the name.

So this was a second occasion when the passing on of the Denton name was not by blood descent but more by relation to the place name and usage. However, the genealogy software I am using is undaunted, describing Adam de Denton as the husband of my third cousin nineteen times removed. Adam’s brother John de Denton is said to have moved and settled in the south of England. Frustratingly he might well be a missing link to Dentons uncovered further south, yet conversely the fact that I could find nothing may indicate he did not marry or died without issue. That’s genealogy for you!

This marriage and the assumption of rights in the name and arms of Denton effectively reignited the branch through these two – Adam de Denton and Isabel de Denton. I will skip down through this line as they are such obscure relatives but some of their subsequent notable individuals might otherwise get confused with my direct lineage.

Thomas de Denton (?-1455) – 4C18

Adam and Isabel’s son was another Thomas de Denton who lived at the Nether Denton manor house, Denton Hall. He was described as an armiger meaning he inherited the Denton coat of arms. He died on 11 February 1455. Thomas married Alice Moore and they had a son Richard (1453-1484) who in turn by an unknown wife had a son, John de Denton of Denton Hall. We do not know his first wife’s name but his second marriage was to Jane Dacre. This clearly prompted other discourse between those families.

John de Denton of Denton Hall (?-1524) – 6C16

In 1496 John did a deal with William Dacre, 3rd Baron Dacre. This exchanged Denton Hall for Warnell in Sebergham. John was also a signatory to a prepared inventory of Johann Dacre’s possessions at Naworth Castle. John married Agnes Sithe. They had two sons, the second was George Denton of Cardew ( – 1638). George rather notably left in his will – two plate jakes covered with cloth and a joined easing chaier with a quisshon worth 2s 6d, meaning two pewter chamber pots with a chair and cushion for comfort. Cardew was originally a modest 14thcentury hall house. A later George Denton of Cardew (1650-1689) would sell it to Sir John Lowther in 1686. Today it is still called Cardew House and is Grade II listed and used as a farmhouse.

Cardew House today

The eldest son of John and Agnes was knighted in 1533 becoming Sir Thomas Denton. Between 1563-4 this Thomas built Warnell Hall, based around a 14thcentury pele tower. Warnell Hall is also a grade II listed building used as a farmhouse today.

Above Warnell’s main door is a Denton coat of arms with an inscription ‘T&MD’ and the date 1683. The most likely T&MD are late 17thcentury – Thomas (1660-1737) and Margery (née Threlkeld) Denton.

Warnell Hall, Sebergham,
bearing the Denton coat of arms

Thomas Denton of Warnell (1538 – 1616) – 8C14

The grandson of John and Agnes, through their son Sir Thomas, was Thomas Denton of Warnell. This Thomas died in 1616 and an altar tomb was built for him in the choir of St Mary’s Sebergham, to the south of Carlisle.

St Marys Church, Sebergham – ©Bob Denton 2016

This Thomas Denton was reported to have a facial disfigurement and was therefore rather rudely known by the sobriquet ‘Tom with the spots’. However, he married Elizabeth Dacre, and a Yorkshire noblewoman, Anne Aislaby, so he must have had made up for his appearance in personality.

When Warnell was sold in 1774 Sir James Lowther considered the altar be something of an obstruction and removed it at some stage between the visitations of 1775 and 1785. The church salvaged the side slabs and fixed them to the south wall of the church’s sanctuary.

The slabs pictured below show two repeated coats of arms. At the top is the traditional Denton coat of arms with trefoils and stripes. Those at the bottom are the Denton arms impaling those of Aislaby of Yorkshire which features martlets, an eagle and a morion (a flat brimmed open helmet). Could this in fact be where the martlet version of Denton’s arms originated? Of course it may have been in use earlier than this.

St Mary’s Sebergham internal

These are not the best quality pictures – but the second shows a close-up of the four coats of arms on the wall of Sebergham church.

Sebergham Church Denton plaque
©Bob Denton 2016
Detail of coats of arms – ©Bob Denton 2016

Thomas Denton of Warnell described as Armiger, Master of Arts and ‘of worthy memory’ died at the age of eighty on 1 April 1616. The plaque inscription consists of Latin hexameters and pentameters by Bernard Ellis (I found no background on Ellis). The inscriptions were on either end of the altar tomb with the coats of arms on the sides. The church provides the details thus:

Per Me                                                                  By Me

AD uxor                                                                A D (Anne Denton) wife

Molliter ossa cubant. Mens                         The bones lies softly. May the mind

Aurea viuet Olimpo                                         live golden in Olympus

Viuet in eternum chara                                  May the lineage live for ever

Deo Soboles. Qth BE                                        dear to God. Quoth BE

Cumbria Warnellum Thomam deplorat ademptum
Dentun qui siquidem Daltaton alter erat
Nempe pius, sapiens ex omni parte Quadratus
Qualem vix hodie scecula nostra ferunt

Cumbria bewails the snatching off of Thomas Warnell
Since this Denton was indeed another Deltaton
Without doubt pious, wise and complete in every part
Such a man as our ages scarcely bring today.

Was Thomas Denton an early freemason? The terms Deltaton (perhaps more correctly Deltoton?) and Quadratus are odd usages here. The first is a constellation known as the triangle and the second is used to suggest Thomas was square all round. The triangle is of course significant in Masonry as it represents the first enclosable shape using straight lines and also for its connection with the sacred Trinity. The square in Masonry is a tool for creating true lines and a symbol of moral rectitude.

However, when the square is superimposed by a set of compasses it becomes one of the most recognised masonic symbols representing the fraternity. The first Masonic lodge was founded at Edinburgh in 1598 – not so very far from Sebergham? 

Masonic symbology – implied within Thomas’s inscription?

Also in Sebergham’s church is a monument to the Rev Josiah Relph (1710-1743), described as ‘The Poet of the North’ and lauded as a learned diligent and conscientious schoolmaster and an exemplary parish priest. This is relevant because his will was attested and sworn by Henry Denton and Isaac Denton.

John Denton the historian (1561-1617) – 9C13

I acknowledged at the beginning of this family history that I owe a debt of gratitude to John Denton, a resident of Cardew Hall where he was born. John’s circa 1603 manuscript Accompt of the most considerable Estates and Families in the county of Cumberland detailed the gentry of Cumberland from the Conquest until the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth I. Sixteen original copies still exist today and he has been much used by historians. As a result of this he was heralded as ‘The First Historian of Cumberland’.

John first worked as a page in the household of the Bishop of Carlisle at Rose Castle. He trained as a lawyer and was appointed as a crown agent for Cumbria. He was then given the task to discover concealed lands for the crown. His relationship with the bishop gained him ready access to the diocesan records of Carlisle between 1598 and 1616.

However, one source suggests that John then fell out with the bishop and was imprisoned in the Tower of London but that seems unlikely (the Tower for a local Carlisle issue?). The national records of the time were kept at the Tower of London and whether he was visitor or prisoner, between 1600 and 1601, he certainly used his time fruitfully adding to his locally-obtained knowledge.

One of his contemporaries Reginald Bainbrigg complimented John saying, he goes by no hearesaies but by ancient records. However, John was an early historian who worked decades before any scholarly medieval English history approaches were developed and in his pioneering enthusiasm there were errors. Perhaps the fact that his work created suspicion and concern among Cumbrian gentry suggests we should accept his information was as good as it gets for this era.

Dentons of Sebergham

The family persisted in the Sebergham area as evidenced by entries in an article prepared by M E Kuper, communicated at Carlisle on July 2 1886 and entitled Sebergham Parish Register:

Kuper analyses the register to conclude the occupations of Sebergham locals were as yeomen, farmers, labourers, colliers (colliery at Warnell Fell), weavers, millers, fiddlers, grocers, tailors, basket makers, dish throwers¹ and dealers in earthenware; very often two or three trades were combined.

¹A turner’s lathe was called a throwe so this probably means turners of wooden platters and cups

But the document makes clear that these Dentons were far from parochial, taking wives and occupations from all around the UK. It talks of Thomas Denton (1612-1643) who married Lettice Lougher (from Stafford) and died in 1643 during the great civil war. He succumbed to wounds received at the Battle of Hull where he served as a captain of foot for the Earl of Newcastle and Charles I.

His successor Thomas Denton of Warnell (1638-1697) was judge and recorder for the city of Carlisle. He married Lettice Vachell (1640- ) of Cawley Berkshire. Their portraits by Sir Peter Lely are at the Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle; they were originally been on display in Warnell Hall.

Thomas Denton
Lettice Denton

On 2 Oct 1723 another Thomas, son of Isaac Denton, was recorded as baptised at Sebergham with the comment these were the Dentons of Green Foot, not de Warnell Dentons, though they reckoned themselves as originals of the same stock.

A schedule of gallery seats in the Sebergham church in 1773 lists the Rev Isaac Denton subscribing for a seat at £3. He was the curate of the church from 1768-1772. It also provides information that he served as Rector of Ashded (Ashtead) in Surrey in 1771.

The 2 Dec 1786 records the death of Mr Isaac Denton

of Loning Foot yeoman; nigh forty years the good learned and faithful Steward to three successive Bishops of Carlisle, Dr. Osbaldiston, Dr. Lyttleton and Dr.Law, aged 66 years. Cui Pudor ; et Justitia Soror, Incorrupta Fides, nudaque Veritas, Quando ultimæ inveniet parem

which means rather cryptically ‘And Shame ; She and Justice, Uncorrupted faith, naked Truth, When you find the last match’ – what is that trying to express?

In 1803 there is mention of a Mrs Sally Robson, relict of Isaac Robson, living with her son-in-law the Rev Isaac Denton.

There is a plaque on the south wall of the church to a much later Isaac Denton (1783-1838). By now they were becoming pretty obscure relatives. This Isaac was a fourteenth cousin eight times removed.

Plaque to Isaac Denton in Sebergham church
©Bob Denton 2016

To the memory of Isaac Denton of Sebergham, Surgeon, who died April, 25th 1838, aged 55 years, for a memorial of individual worth, and more particularly of professional services afforded by him gratuitously to the afflicted poor of the neighbourhood, this mural tablet is erected by the spontaneous act of his friends.

The plaque on Isaac’s tomb in the churchyard reads:

To memory of Elizabeth, wife of Isaac Denton… Also to memory of Isaac Denton… secretary to the Bishop of Carlisle…

Tomb of Isaac and Elizabeth in Sebergham churchyard
©Bob Denton 2016

Intriguing is that not only did they continue in the locality but they held down similar roles. This Isaac was secretary to the Bishop of Carlisle in the 19thcentury; John the historian had also served his Bishop of Carlisle in the 16thcentury.

Let’s bring this to a close by referring to the document for its detailed appendices. It is available at www.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk

  • Appendix III listing the Dentons de Warnell events between 1698 and 1781
  • Appendix IV which lists the Dentons of Greenfoot from 1723 to 1805
  • Appendix VII which shows Dentons who served as churchwardens to the church.

Forward to Other Denton branches –  Back to Earliest Ancestors
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